“…to come to ground is to begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.” David Whyte
On a quiet afternoon a few months ago, as I painted my nails a soft brick shade in preparation of yet another week with travel, the colour tugged at a random memory. Of a maddeningly bumpy red ochre mud road I’d stopped to photograph during a trip to Kenya over Christmas last year. That day, as we drove along a gloriously winding stretch through low hills towards the little beach town we were headed to near Mombasa, I remember looking back at the puffy red dust in our wake, thinking how much it reminded me of the earth at home in Bangalore. Of its texture and colour under my bare feet when I’m out with the dogs. Of the uneven paths littered abundantly with dry bamboo leaves that crunch and swirl as we walk. In the surprising scorcher that was summer this year (for Bangalore) the earth quietly baked a fiery orange as dry topsoil cracked open in jagged dusty rows. Now, in the monsoon rains, our driveway turns treacherously squelchy and slippery even as it shines a wet terracotta red. With every change in the season, the terrain shifts and settles, and I have to learn to walk differently on it. Life’s been a lot like that I realise and it’s only now that I’ve begun to find ground.
In learning to flow with the constant change that embodies my life, I’ve often been left wondering tiredly, oof, what’s next? And even as I’ve yearned to slow down these past few years, I haven’t been quite sure what for or even why, although I’ve done my best to honour this need in several ways. I discovered earlier this year that amongst a great many other things, slowing down serves to listen more deeply to myself. Only to discover that finding ground is a richly felt experience within. It’s taken me most of the past year to touch that place; a year in which I’ve not written a word, as I’ve waited for the answer to emerge. It was only a few weeks ago, as I heard the life stories of people I’m coaching, and watched them declare a new context for themselves in the workshop that followed that I thought it was time finally, to ask myself the same question they had reflected on: what is my game? And how do I find it?! I stayed puzzled and frustrated for weeks until I learned I was focusing too hard on the how. Some answers need space and time, and mine emerged in a quiet heartbeat of certainty; I’m still in wonder that it’s been there all along. It’s just taken all my life to prepare me to listen to it with the reverence it deserves. Leaving a new question in its wake – what do I need to commit to now?
To find ground then is to ask and listen to to your own heart. And to check how rooted the answer feels within you as you glimpse a little bit of your own soul in testing the foundation of where (and how) you stand. Most often, that’s a lifetime of constant inquiry. For the sake of what do you do what you do? Who, really, are you? And what do you value most? What brings you alive? What makes your heart sing? When do you most feel connected to yourself? Ground those questions with how might it serve others? Perhaps what are you ready for? What’s stopped you before? Why now? I’ve found that it’s important to commit to staying present to whatever answer emerges with curiosity, compassion and courage. The way ahead will get clearer one step at a time as the truth of your own ground begins to unfold in the context of self, work and relationships.
A firefly twinkled gently on our verandah after a rainstorm the other night. I imagined it must have been exhausted flying in the rain. Just as there seemed little hope it would survive, and before my dog Rumi could snap it up, it suddenly rose, winked at me and glided off into the darkness. Telling me, I suppose, that a spark is all it takes. Find it and you’ve found your ground. That’s when you fly.